Friday, January 30, 2015

From the "Splendid Galley" Spam, Spam, Bacon, Bacon Jam, and Spam App

The pressure is on. You've been invited to the big party on the yacht again and the painful memory of your last appetizer effort still lingers. The haunting vision of your tofu stuffed cucumbers accompanied by an organic plain yogurt dipping sauce languishing untouched on the fantail still sears your retinas. Never again you swear.

The Rant's culinary experts have the perfect solution for you. Fried jalapeno Spam sticks served in bacon bowls with a bacon jam dipping sauce. Spicy, tasty, and always an epicurean favorite. This dish will surely be the centerpiece of the party's conversations. Just one look at those glistening Spam sticks will make you want to sample it again and again.

This eye popping appetizer is easy to make and the ingredients are already in most galleys. It just takes three simple steps to achieve porcine culinary nirvana.

First we make some bacon bowls, Then we need a can of Spam. One of my favorites is the jalapeno flavored Spam. We will then make some bacon jam for dipping using a very special recipe.

You don't need a "As seen on TV" product to make bacon bowls. Some tin foil and a muffin tin works just fine. Flip a muffin tin upside down and take a piece of tin foil and mold it over one of the forms. Do a good job of making it smooth. Then spray on some some Pam, or use cooking oil and a paper towel to apply it to the tin foil.

Grab your scissors and get some of that yummy bacon ready. Measure and cut a strip of bacon and lay it from one side to the other over the form. Repeat until it's covered. It will take three or four strips to do this depending on the size of the bowl.

Now take a long bacon strip and wrap it around the base. Where this piece overlaps take the foil and bend it up to pin the end against the form. Throw this into a 350 degree oven on a cookie sheet (you will want to save that delicious bacon grease) for about 20 minutes checking them on occasion. You don't want to cook the bowls too fast or the bacon will do wonky shrinky things. 

When done remove the bowl with the foil from the muffin pan, let cool for a couple of minutes and then remove the foil carefully from the inside. You have just made a mouth watering sculptural bacon masterpiece ready to be filled with morsels of your choice.

Spam is a quintessentially and ubiquitous American food. It's been around since 1937 and over 7 billions cans have been sold. Despite its undeserved reputation as being a mystery meat it's just pork shoulder and ham extruded into a can. Think of it as a square hotdog like product in a can with fewer and better ingredients.

I'll admit that a couple of times a year I buy a can and cook it up while listening as Don Ho croons "Tiny Bubbles." My mother would cook up plain original Spam with fried eggs and it always tastes the way I remember it from my childhood. Today I prefer the more piquant jalapeno and tabasco flavored versions, but enough about my less than halcyon youth.

Think meaty french fries. Slice the Spam and cut the slices again about 3/8" square give or take. You can fry or bake them. The idea is to have them firm enough to eat as a finger food. You can use the leftover grease from making the bacon bowls for some extra porky frying flavor if you wish.

I can't say enough about the miracle that is bacon jam. This is Caity Prunka's recipe. She and her partner Ryan Sullivan are the proprietors of Bondurants restaurant and bar in New York City.

I first tasted this Caity one of a kind creation at thanksgiving dinner, and have lusted after it ever since.

Caity's Bourbon Bacon Jam
1lb of smoked thick cut bacon chopped
2 large shallots diced
1 whole sprig of thyme or rosemary
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/3 cup of bourbon
Fresh ground black pepper

Saute chopped bacon until soft and the fat has rendered.
Add herbs and shallots to thinly cover the pan and continue to cook. (you don't want the bacon to get crunchy, just well cooked. Pour off half of the bacon fat and reserve because bacon fat is awesome.
Add brown sugar, reduce until it becomes sticky.
Add bourbon to deglaze (do not flambe).
Continue to cook until the bacon is crispy, but not crumbly.
Let cool, and blend to the desired consistency.
Spread it on almost anything and enjoy.

The presentation is simple. Place the Spam sticks in the bacon bowls, garnish with something green, and serve it with the bacon jam. This is finger food manna from heaven. The tangy fried Spam harmonizes beautifully with the sweet bourbon flavored bacon jam. Bring this app to the yacht party next year and I'll guarantee the guests will talk about it for years to come.

Hmmm, it seems my cardiologist and friend, the most esteemed Dr. Dave requests that I provide some actual nutritional information about this appetizer he is not very health-wise enthused about. We have this type of conversation on occasion which mostly consists of me attempting to negotiate just how big those two daily glasses of red wine can be, and if they can be filled with that brown Kentucky wine.

Serving size 8 Spam sticks (2oz)
Calories 160, Fat Calories 130, Total Fat 14g, Sat. Fat 5g, Trans Fat 0g, Cholest. 15mg, Sodium 90mg, Total Carb 2g, Fiber 0g, Sugars, 0g, Protein 7g, Zero vitamins tiny amount of iron.

Bacon Jam
Serving size 1 oz
Calories 140, Fat Calories 120, Total Fat 13g, Sat. Fat 14.5g, Trans Fat 0g, Cholest. 35mg, Sodium 650mg, Total Carb 4g, Fiber 0g, Sugars, 0g, Protein 1g, Zero vitamins.

Bacon Bowl
Serving size 1/4 bowl (1 strip of bacon)
Calories 142, Fat Calories 100, Total Fat 11.3g, Sat. Fat 3.7g, Trans Fat 0g, Cholest. 30mg, Sodium 570mg, Total Carb 1g, Fiber 0g, Sugars, 0g, Protein 9.3g, Some minuscule amount of vitamins. It's not a one a day vitamin by any means.

Something green out of the refrigerator that I wasn't going to eat so it doesn't count anyway. I mean its green. Isn't that's nature's way of telling you it's closer to fodder than food and not very tasty?

Bondurants is a NYC neighborhood bar with a Sarasota connection that features an incredible collection of small batch bourbons and whiskeys along with over twenty craft beers on tap. Mix this with tasty eclectic pub fare with a touch of southern flare at modest prices and you have a winner, and it is.

Dr. David Schreibman beyond being a skilled and avid boater (He and his wife are basis for the Ted and Alice characters I used in a much earlier story) Dr. Dave is an extraordinary cardiologist, and I can personally attest to his expertise. You would be hard pressed to find someone with better professional skills anywhere. He also has a great sense of humor as his appearance in this piece indicates. Now about that brown wine again Dr. Dave, just two glasses?  

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